Now that we are coming down the final stretch, this week was rather stressful for Ma’ayan and Sam. Our objectives this week were twofold: complete the web application for our mode shift data and compile our interview transcripts for the TDM study. As of writing this reflection, I can proudly say that both tasks have been accomplished!
Before we could upload our final data to the internet to begin work on the web app, there remained one obstacle to overcome in ArcGIS Desktop. Although we had calculated normalized mode share percentages for each data set, we had neglected to “normalize” the commuting worker population for each radius around the Caltrain stations. To fix this, Ma’ayan and Sam had to follow a complex procedure that required joining data from multiple layers and recalculating fields before creating new dissolve layers for each map. After finally completing this lengthy and draining process, we had thought that our ArcGIS days were finally behind us. Unfortunately, as we began uploading data to the website, we found one glitch remained. We had forgotten to label each Caltrain station in the spreadsheets, which up until now had been represented simply with an ID number. After making a final round of joins to the feature layers, we were finally ready to export our data and bring it online.
Today (Friday) was devoted to constructing the web applet. Ma’ayan and Sam put in the hours and now have a functional, largely complete application viewable online! The website can be viewed here (ArcGIS account required to view!).
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, we set aside time to conduct telephone interviews with TMAs from around the country. On Wednesday at 2PM we had a conversation with Chris Hagelin from GO Boulder, the TMA for Boulder, CO. At 4, we dialed James Paxson from the Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton. Then, on Thursday, we interviewed Chris Hamilton from the Arlington County Commuter Services. All three interviews were informative, and the representatives we spoke with were excited about our project and eager to share their knowledge and expertise with us.
What We Observed and Learned
Boulder, Hacienda, and Arlington County each have a unique TMA funding system and structure. In Boulder, funds are collected through a citywide sales tax and federal funding, GO Boulder receives $5 million per year, and the TDM component has a budget of $650,000 per year. At the Hacienda Business Park, property owners pay for the TMA through a covenant drawn up between the owners, based on acreage. In Arlington County, a $10 million budget is drawn from a variety of sources, most surprisingly through commissions on the sale of transit tickets for the region’s two transit agencies.
Different TDM policies have proven most effective for each region. In Boulder, the eco-pass rules supreme. Neighborhoods, employers, and other agencies can pool together to purchase these transit passes in bulk for residents and employees. Businesses can receive rebates to facilitate the purchase further, and the passes have contributed to a dramatic decrease in SOV trips during peak transit hours, from 80% to 38% SOV. Hacienda provides BART passes to its employees as well. The Arlington County Commuter Services has found that the most effective strategy is to engage directly with business owners. By encouraging employers to adopt a TDM plan that is custom-made for the company, the ACCS has been able to provide 73% of Arlington’s 238,000 employees with basic TDM policies.
While all three TMAs have a survey mechanism, Arlington County stands out because of its innovative Mobility Lab. (see here). The Lab conducts annual surveys of residents and employees in Arlington County, reaches out to other TMAs to assemble its own collection of best-practices for TDM, and does related R&D projects of its own. As this entity is both unique and extensive, we hope to submit our work to the Lab so that a wider audience can read our research.
We have forwarded our web applet to Adina for her to review and comment on. We are already aware of one glitch with the interface where the pop-up windows for each Caltrain station to not load chronologically. As other glitches, typos, and edits surface, we will be sure to address them immediately before next Wednesday. Additonally, Ma’ayan and Sam plan to finish compiling the telephone interviews and other research into our TDM study paper so that we can submit to Adina and other interested parties by Wednesday. Otherwise, our tasks before the Wednesday presentation are simply to assemble our Powerpoint presentation and rehearse!
If we aren’t mistaken, this is the last reflection of the quarter! Sam and Ma’ayan want to take a moment to thank Adina Levin and Friends of Caltrain; Deland Chan, Carly Weis, and the Urban Studies Department; and all of the guest speakers, community contacts, representatives from other TMAs, and others who made this course a successful learning experience. Though this class was a lot of hard work, we are both grateful for having the opportunity to engage in this service learning project!
Ma’ayan & Sam